Updated 6 Dec 2000
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
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A ONE-MAN research project which is set to become a model for the future has been given a civic accolade by a Dales town.
Avid genealogist John Palmer has blazed an amazing trail for Wirksworth by compiling an Internet website - from his home in Dorset!
And his voluntary enquiry service for people seeking ancestors in the town has already dealt with more than 8,000 requests from all over the world!
Now retired engineer John - who lives in Poole - has been commended by Wirksworth Town Council and his self-confessed "obsession" adopted as a Millennium project.
Since 1996, John (59) has been compiling a total of 14 databases which form a unique record of life in Wirksworth over the past 400 years.
"It all began after I took early retirement at 50 in 1990 and decided to research my family tree. I soon found that my ancestors were the Doxey family from Middleton and I traced them back to 1595" he said.
But John added: " I became interested in the Wirksworth community as a whole and eventually decided to set down all the parish records on computer. It took three-and-a-half years - and was the hardest work I've ever done in my life"
Working completely independently, John has travelled up to the Dales three to four times a year. He has spent countless hours in the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock and the Local Studies department at nearby County Hall.
"I now have information on more than 30,000 people who have lived in Wirksworth since the 16th century. Its the only comprehensive record of its kind - and its become a bit of an obsession!"
John's labour of love includes headings covering 5,600 entries in the Wirksworth parish registers from 1608-1837, memorial inscriptions from 1555-1991, and even the complete 1841 census details for the town and Matlock.
"The advantage of the Internet is that it is the perfect way to distribute information in large quantities to the rest of the world, which can be constantly updated. And people from many countries have contacted me for details of their ancestors in Wirksworth."
Ironically, John's research produced vast amounts of information about his great-grandfather - Matlock clerk of works William Doxey of Bank Road, who helped design both Smedley's Hydro and the town's cable tramway.
And Wirksworth Town Council recognition followed an approach by Wirksworth Heritage Centre director Derek Keith-Walker, who was astounded at John's efforts.
"He started out by trying to trace his own relatives. I'm sure this use of the Internet will happen everywhere eventually," he said.
The comprehensive website can be visited on: